Home Christian News Chicago Church Is ‘Fasting From Whiteness’ During the Season of Lent

Chicago Church Is ‘Fasting From Whiteness’ During the Season of Lent

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Rev. John Edgerton delivers the sermon at First United Church of Oak Park on March 6. Screenshot from YouTube / @First United Church of Oak Park

A Chicago church is making headlines for its decision to fast from “whiteness” during the season of Lent. First United Church of Oak Park in Oak Park, Ill., says its goal during Lent is to pursue unity in the body of Christ.

“For Lent this year, First United is doing a mix of ‘giving something up’ and ‘taking something on,’” says a post on the church’s website

In our worship services throughout Lent, we will not be using any music or liturgy written or composed by white people. Our music will be drawn from the African American spirituals tradition, from South African freedom songs, from Native American traditions, and many, many more.

For Lent, it is our prayer that in our spiritual disciplines we may grow as Christians, united in the body of Christ with people of all ages, nations, races, and origins.

Chicago Church Gives Up ‘Whiteness’ 

First United Church is an affirming church that describes itself as “an open community united in love and justice.” During the Sunday service on April 3, First United Church’s pastor, Rev. John Edgerton, who is white, noted that the church was continuing the “spiritual practice that we are calling ‘fasting from whiteness.’” 

Edgerton said, “Now, of course, I am not someone who can change my skin or change the way that my presence as a white person allows me to walk through this nation with much ease. But during this season of Lent, what we are doing is we are choosing to place at the very center of the worship life of this church the voices of Black people, indigenous people and other people of color.” 

One of the ways the Chicago church did this during the first Sunday service of Lent on March 6 was by featuring a story for children on the life of congressman John Lewis, a key figure in the civil rights movement. Edgerton’s sermon that morning touched on race as well, focusing on the portion of Genesis 9 that describes Noah getting drunk and passing out naked. 

Noah’s son Ham sees his father and tells his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who refuse to look at their father’s nakedness and instead cover him. When Noah wakes, he curses Ham’s son Canaan, saying, “The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” White Christians have at times used this passage to promote the “Curse of Ham” theory, justifying the subjugation and enslavement of Black people.

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.